This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

My Homemade Chicken Soup

It really isn't a big secret. Its just that most people opt for the short cuts that, in the end, leave them wondering why their soup isn't all that great or, they just don't care that their soup could be so much better.

Toss 'em!
The difference between a so-so soup and soup the way its supposed to taste? Simple...its all about the stock you start with. And there are no short cuts for this. Not cans of stock, not cardboard boxes of stock, not the powder in the jars or the little cubes wrapped in foil. Start your next soup by tossing all those options in the trash.

You create a great stock with fresh ingredients. Fresh meats and fresh herbs.My stock. Okay, Let's start with a chicken stock. I'm making one up this weekend for a homemade chicken soup.
Stock simmering

 Start with a big stock pot of fresh, cool water (a couple of gallons). As you bring it up to a boil, toss in a whole chopped onion, 4 stalks of celery and 4 carrots all rough chopped. Add 2-3 cloves of garlic, a couple of bay leaves, several whole black pepper corns, a teaspoon of salt and one whole chicken. Parts or whole. Its okay to use the wings, thighs, backs and drumsticks saving the breasts for fancier needs if you want. Bring it all to a boil and then turn it down to simmer for 45 minutes.

Turn it off and pour the stock off through a colander into a another stock pot. Put the stock in the fridge overnight. Skim off most of the fat from the top the next day before reheating.

Strip cooled chicken meat off the bones and put it away in the fridge until tomorrow. Toss the herbs and veggies away. Pull or cut up the chicken meat into bit sized chucks.

The next morning, Scrap of the fat that has formed on the surface of the chicken stock. You decide how much to leave to add fat to the soup. Bring the stock back up to a boil while adding the following:

3-4 carrots sliced into coins
3-4 stalks of celery cut the same thickeness as the carrot coins.
1 onion chopped
1 pond of a pasta of your choice
Chicken chunks

Your basic simple chicken soup, Yum!
As the stock returns to a boill, toss in all the above ingredients and turn stock down to a simmer. Let soup simmer for 15-20 minutes. Check the seasoning. Add black pepper and salt to taste. When the veggies and pasta are almost soft (al dente), turn off the heat and set the soup aside. Serve when ready. Sprinkle a little chopped parsley over the top or tortilla chips or cilantro. Add your favorite hot sauce. Use your imagination!

Add tomatoes, beans, other veggies or herbs to suit your personal tastes.A little of this and little of that and you easily go from a chicken soup to a minestrone or any of dozens of other variations.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Annual Maintenance for Key of Sea

March 7, 2017. It's rainy, cold but not cold enough to snow today. My newest mechanic is on board the Key of Sea as well as myself. He's draining the 10+ year old engine coolant from both engines and refilling it with fresh stuff. We were concerned that what drained out would look bad and show signs the cooling system might be in trouble. Turns out that the coolant came out looking good on the port side and a little dirty on the starboard side engine. The mechanic figures that the starboard side may be because it wasn't changed last time because getting to the drain plug is a real pain on that side.

Anyway, the good news is that it was in good shape indicating their is probably no issue with that system. Also, he was able to get the drain plugs off both sides with no trouble. There was concern that they may have to be cut off and new ones installed which would have added a lot more to the cost of the job. So, we've dodged two big bullets so far in this annual maintenance.

Next up is the oil change. This should be pretty straight forward so I am not expecting any problems here.

Finally, the fuel filters have to come off and be replaced. I had a new Racor secondary filter system installed a couple of years ago and also had them moved aft so they'd be easier to access. Plus, the new system requires filters that are easier to find and less expensive. The primary filters are attached directly to the side of the engines like an oil filter on a car. These filters are easy to find even at some car parts stores.

The biggest issue in doing the work is getting at the parts of the engine needing getting to. The engine room is not designed for anything but a pretty small guy and certainly not for a big guy like me. Crawling on hands and knees, over support beams crisscrossing the space and doing it in a greasy, smelly dark space is not my idea of fun. So I'm pretty happy having someone else down there doing the work.

The new mechanic has spotted several items that he asked if he could fix or double check like the hose clamps and the loose alternator bolt. I appreciate that he is that conscientious.

When all this is finished, hopefully today, the boat will be mechanically ready to take out on the water. Sort of like the check up an airplane mechanic does to a plane on a regular schedule, you do this because you don't want any surprises, especially at the the very worst of times. There's nothing worse than an engine failure when you're in rough water or trying to get through a rapids

So, the final report is that all is well with the boat mechanically ecept for the need for replacing the two raw water pumps within the next year or two. The pumps each cost 700 and itll be about thatmuch more to have them installed. Its always something.

Meanwhile, we are ready to go for the season. Now we begin to plan where we'll go.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Fast Charge - Dual USB Charger Socket Mount Project

Another of my summer 2016 projects was to install a USB charger on the flybridge near the helm. As I often use my ipad and the Navionics app to navigate, it uses up the ipad's battery before the day is done leaving me with no power to use the ipad for other tasks later in the day. And, as the engines are shut down, charging the ipad becomes a real problem.

A boating friend, thank heaven for them, told me he had installed one of the fast chargers and it made all the difference.

It is made locally here in Bellingham. I liked that. So I drove over to the factory and was actually able to meet the engineer who designed it. He gave me plenty of tips for installing it. Pretty simple really.

Here is the Blue Sea website where you can look up the device and its specs. They cost about $45.

Hole Saw
It's an "intelligent device" meaning it will rapidly charge a phone, tablet or other mobile device much quicker than normal USB charging plugs. It also has an internal filter to prevent it from interfering with your GPS Chartplotter or VHF radio which may be nearby on your helm.

The finished project
It was an easy hole to drill using a hole saw through the face of the helm and then only required that it be wired into the circuit breaker system behind the main helm. Run the power wire up to the and connect to the charger.

Schematic for installation
It is waterproof with a plastic cover that hides the dual USB plug.

My First Marine Plywood Project

Original damaged area
Last summer, after several seasons of watching as a panel on the side of a locker at the foot of the Key of Sea's flybridge ladder slowly and relentlessly peeled and rotted from the exposure to water, I finally decided to take on the project of replacing it. How big a deal could it be?

Well, like every project I undertake that requires some talent as an electrician or a plumber or a carpenter or mechanic, it IS a big deal.

However, in the past I have found that in many instances, patience, a lot of careful study and going at it slowly, usually results in success. Thus, I began the process of learning what I needed to do to make this little project work and along the way I learned a lot.

The small 10 by 15 inch panel was rotting and as it was very visable, it got to look really bad. At least it looked bad to me. I noticed it everytime I boarded the boat. I'd cuss the thing a bit under my breath, shake my head and tell my wife I have got to figure out how to fix that.

Tearing into the project, I found more rot. 
Part of my concern was that it was part of a locker that also acted as the first step up the ladder to the flybridge, I really didn't want it to get so rotten that it might collapse on someone sending them sprawling across the cockpit deck.

So, I started by doing a lot of research on line. I posted a question on the Bayliner Owner's Club's question forum, and asked questions of boating friends. Slowly the planning portion of the project came together. I found I needed to purchase some specific tools I didn't have. I needed specific materials to do the job, marine plywood, epoxy, brushes, gloves, sandpaper, etc.

2 X 4 foot piece of marine plywood
I began collecting all the stuff needed and also made several visits to the boat to take measurements. As the panel was in bad shape, taking an accurate measurement was problematic. You don't want to be off in your dimensions and, as very few edges on a boat are straight, you have to measure more that twice. The panel turned out to be roughly a parallelogram but the height of the shape changed, becoming shorter as it got closer to the back wall. If I didn't want to go through a lot of very expensive plywood, I'd need to be very careful with my measurements.
Measure five times, cut once!

At $50 for a half sheet of marine plywood, I really wanted to get this right the first time. I purchased a square and a finishing blade for my skill saw and began measuring, checking, rechecking, double checking, thinking through every move I made to get just the right shape drawn onto the plywood. Then I carefully started making each cut, stopped, looked over what I'd done, remeasuring again. Then on to the next rip.

When I'd finally got the final cut done, I took the raw piece of wood down to the boat to see how it fit. Close, but not quite perfect. Back home, I shaved a bit more off one end to account for the height difference from front to back. Another trip to the boat and it looked nearly perfect. Pretty darn close for an amateur trying this for the first time.

I pulled the teak wood trim pieces off the locker, sanded and revarnished them over several days.

After carefully sanding the new panel with finer and finer grits, finally ending with double 00 steel wool, I cleaned it carefully with tack cloth, a product I had never used before. It basically picks up every bit of the dust and wool left behind from the sanding process making it more likely you'll get a smooth finish when applying epoxy and your final finish.

Finished panel!
The panel I was replacing and much of the plywood portions of our boat are all unfinished plywood, destined to rot out over time. It is one of the features of a Bayliner that makes it a more affordable boat when new, but a construction failing when the boat reaches a certain age. The plywood should have been covered with an epoxy in the beginning but this process would have added more to the cost, so it was left out. Now I am suffering for this oversight.

All edges of the new panel have been painted with the gooey epoxy and left to dry before the second coat was applied. Careful sanding of the epoxy prepared it for painting. I found a deck paint made by Rustoleum that went on beautifully. Not a brush stroke is visable.  A couple of coats of this and the panel was ready for installation.

The biggest problem was getting all the trim pieces back in place and the entire locker put back together. The finished product turned out so nice I almost suprised myself. I point it out to everyone who comes aboard and they politely compliment me but I know they are probably thinking that such a piddly little repair is kind of silly. But I am proud and so is my wife. And the boat looks so much better when I climb aboard.

I know there are more places aboard that will need this same treatment sooner than later but at least I know I can do it when the time comes.
My plan and measurements on top of the rotten panel